This next-generation sequel to The Royal Mile follows Sorcha Fraser, daughter of Iain and Dallas Fraser of Gosford’s End. Reluctant to leave the familiarity of her parents’ highland home, Sorcha is sent to Edinburgh to the court of her cousin, 19-year-old James VI, and subsequently to the English ‘phantom court’ of his mother Mary, Queen of Scots. Early in the story she meets Gavin Napier, a handsome, charismatic but enigmatic priest who travels south with her escort. Sorcha falls deeply in love, but Gavin’s life propels him to be more circumspect, and he harbours secrets he will not divulge. When he eventually confides in her, Sorcha believes it impossible that they can ever have a life together. In an era fraught with religious discord, Sorcha makes enemies and finds herself in some dangerous situations. Her transition from girl to womanhood is touchingly authentic, and she doesn’t easily give up on her goals, or Gavin. I particularly liked the rendition of young James, his inner turmoil, his ambivalence towards his mother, his political forethought in keeping some of the troublesome Scottish lords close to his person.
In this novel, originally published as Passion’s Triumph, Daheim’s prose is engaging, and her novel has all the best ingredients of a well-researched historical romance, including some steamy love scenes. It wasn’t difficult to immerse myself in this fast-paced story. Lovely imagery of Scotland is expertly rendered, along with solidly believable characters (including many familiar real-life figures). Sorcha’s narrative is carefully interwoven with factual historic detail. The elusive Gavin did, at times, have a magician’s knack for appearing just when needed, and was a bit long-suffering for my tastes, but that never spoiled my enjoyment of this very satisfying historical romance.